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Spain's unforgiving eviction law

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Spain's unforgiving eviction law


How does an unemployed homeowner dreading a condemned future in Spain feel?

Here is Fabian Herrera’s answer: “I am depressed, I feel bad, I can’t sleep at night. I go to bed thinking that tomorrow we might be the ones who have to move out and leave our home to the bank – and where are we going to live? We won’t only be homeless: the bank director told us that even if we are evicted, we will be in debt to the bank for our whole lives; we’ll still have to pay back what we borrowed.”

It’s the same story all over Spain.

Fabian and Mariuxi came here from Ecuador ten years ago. He had work as a chauffeur; she minded children. And they bought an apartment four years ago. Then they lost their jobs and now can’t make the payments and the bank plans to evict them and their 14 year-old son.

Since 2008, 400,000 people have suffered directly from the more than hundred-year-old law (1909) that lets banks force those in mortgage default out of their homes, around 500 per day, and still demand repayment. These loans make up 70 percent of household debt in Spain.

In the neighbourhood of the northern city of Bilbao where a 53-year-old woman killed herself last Friday as the bailiffs were on their way to evict her, many others are afraid of the same threat. For sale notices are everywhere.

The government has promised to intervene. Support groups say it has to be fast.

Rosa de la Fuente, President of an association of people affected by mortgages in the Basque Country, said: “We need a decree urgently, to approve a moratorium of at least five years, until the families in trouble can benefit from an improved economic climate.”

With protesters sleeping on pavements outside banks, the Court of Justice of the European Union says the Spanish law is incompatible with EU law because it does not protect consumers from abusive contracts.

Earlier this year, help groups pressed for banks to forgive mortgage debt for properties worth less than 200,000 euros and where all the family members are unemployed.

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